Tips and Tricks to Overcome a Weight Loss Plateau
After speaking to a few clients this past week, I came across this article that tackles the nagging subject of weight loss plateaus. If this is you, please read on for some great tips in making your weight loss and fat loss goals progressing again.
Ok, so you stopped drinking soda and bringing ice cream into the house, got up out of your Zoom recliner and back into the office and at first the weight started to peel off. This boosted your confidence, so you started doing more cardio to burn some extra calories. All of your efforts paid off and you lost weight, possibly even a lot of weight … well, for a while. But now you feel stuck; you feel as if you’ve reached a weight-loss plateau.
Possibly you’re at a healthy weight, likely above your dream weight, but those pesky 5, 10, or 15 pounds are still lingering. Why? Are you just dreaming too big and searching for something that is out of reach? If you’re at a healthy weight, this might be because the body likes to maintain a stable weight, also known as set-point weight. While your body’s set point can be adjusted, it can take some time to get there.
As you are losing weight, it can be tempting to cut calories too low to shed pounds faster. The down side to this technique: your muscle can be used as energy and this gradually slows your metabolism to spare energy. If you have met with me in my office for a BodPod, you likely have heard me preach about eating more or giving your body more energy (calories) to prevent muscle loss. Whether you find yourself above your body’s natural set-point weight or if you’re hard pressed to lose those vanity pounds, here are ten ways to overcome a weight-loss plateau.
1. ADJUST YOUR CALORIE INTAKE
As you lose weight, your metabolism can drop because your body requires less calories or “energy” to fuel a smaller you. The calorie intake that you initially had when you began your weight-loss journey will need to be adjusted to match your body’s current needs for weight loss. On the flip side, you may be gaining muscle, which will increase your metabolism, making your body require more energy to remain fueled correctly.
2. FOCUS ON QUALITY
Busting through a weight-loss plateau is more than calories in and calories out.
Read that again.
Processed foods won’t cut it anymore, thus quality whole foods like vegetables, beans, high-fiber fruits and lean proteins are needed for your engine to burn body fat. In other words, while simply cutting calories may have worked initially, your body needs good, solid nutrition. This is what is meant by "dialing in your nutrition". So much more affects your ability to lose fat and gain muscle than just calories.
You are a person. Not a robot. There are too many variables to make it as simple as "calories in vs. calories out"...another post for another day!
3. ROTATE YOUR ROUTINE
Slugging away on the treadmill or just walking outside for the past 2-plus months? It’s time to change up your workouts. The muscles become familiar with the same old workout, making your regular routine less effective. To see a change in body fat, you have to get outside of your fitness comfort zone. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has been shown to burn body fat effectively. Circuit training is another great option if you are pressed for time. Note: Just progress slowly and deliberately when incorporating high-intensity exercise into your routine. Doing too much too fast can leave you too sore, tired or even injured.
4. BEWARE OF CLEANUP DUTY
An extra bite here, a little nibble there. Those calories DO count, even if they aren’t on your plate. Mindlessly munching on the kids’ (or spouse’s) leftovers during clean up seems harmless, but resist the snack urge because it might be what’s keeping you from seeing results. Plus, chicken nuggets and goldfish crackers aren't part of your nutrition plan for seeing results, right?
5. KNOW YOUR NUMBERS
If you’ve been watching what you eat and exercising more and your weight is not budging, consult with your doctor or licensed nutritionist to rule out any underlying medical conditions that could make it difficult for you to lose weight. While the thyroid gets most of the blame, there are also other issues that can create weight loss resistance.
Another way to know your numbers is to have a BodPod test performed so you can see what is happening. Maybe your "weight loss plateau" is really your body recomposing. If you exchange 2 pounds of fat for 2 pounds of muscle, your weight will not change, but your clothes will begin to fit better!
6. GET QUALITY SLEEP
A full night’s sleep is vital to losing body fat because it resets your hormones. Even a little sleep deprivation can lead to increased cortisol, a stress hormone. Elevated cortisol levels can lead to body fat accumulation, especially around the midsection. Lots of people are MORE stressed out lately, so if you can’t change the stress you are exposed too, then CHANGE the way you react to that stress.
Your body also uses that sleep time to repair muscles and detox the body. Your brain literally gets bathed cerebrospinal fluid to help rid the body of metabolic "trash" or byproducts.
7. KEEP A CLOSER EYE ON YOUR CALORIC NEEDS
Research has shown that people often overestimate how many calories they burn during exercise, and underestimate how many calories they eat. To determine a more accurate resting metabolic rate for your fitness tech, have it accurately measured based on your body composition. Keep in mind that the number of calories burned during activity can vary.
8. FLUSH WITH FLUIDS
Keep your hydration in check since the body will often crave food when you are even mildly dehydrated. Symptoms of dehydration are similar to symptoms of hunger, so it’s easy to confuse the two. Aim to drink 80-100 fluid ounces (2.35 liters) of water per day plus additional fluids lost during activity. Find a water bottle and determine how many times you need to refill it to get your ideal hydration amount. Remember, fruits and veggies, soups, smoothies, etc also count toward your hydration, not just water!
9. INCREASE MUSCLE MASSS
Want to burn more calories at rest? Lift (heavier) weights and follow a strength-training program to build muscle. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn, and the more body fat you’ll shed. Why is this? Muscle uses more energy (burns more calories) than fat. When you have more muscle, your metabolism increases, thereby burning more fat!
10. EAT MORE PROTEIN
Protein has the highest thermic effect of food, meaning eating protein burns more calories during digestion. Protein also contains an amino acid, leucine, that numerous research studies have identified as a potent catalyst for burning body fat.
Put these tried and true tips into action, and soon you’ll be saying, “What weight-loss plateau?”
Kelly Sherman, MS, NC, CGP, CPT, is a licensed holistic sports nutritionist specializing in athletes transitioning from high school athletics to college athletics. She has a master’s degree in nutrition and is degreed in exercise science as well as a certified personal trainer. With over 20 years of experience in the field, she combines the best of both nutrition and sports sciences to best help her clients reach their potential. To nourish is to flourish!
All content of this blog is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this blog.